I’ve recently started a new full time job, a huge blessing for my professional life (and my finances) but much larger drain on my time and energy than I was prepared for. Obviously yes, I knew that 40 hours a week would be a huge change from the 25-30 odd hours that I had been working previously. And learning to be an adult that works a significant portion of my life out of my house has been a huge transition. I thought I had fully come into my own as an adult, taking care of all responsibilities and feeding my own creative and intellectual pursuits. I thought I had this whole work-life balance thing down. Oh boy, does that all take on a whole new dimension now.
I’ve been feeling harried lately, not by the demands of my actual job, but simply by the way I felt like the time I had to do literally anything other than work had compressed. Folding laundry, which used to be a leisurely three hour task for me, now became this huge stupid thing that I had to finish in 5 minutes or I would have NO TIME to do VERY IMPORTANT things like scroll on pinterest. I’ve also been keeping my work phone on me constantly, determined to prove that I am a committed employee who understands that work comes first.
To a certain extent, this is a good thing. Really, no one needs to spend hours of their life scrolling pinterest or Instagram, or what have you. And I do appreciate the way that having less time has made me prioritize what is truly important to me and forced me to do those important things first. But the general effect was that I felt like all of my time was spent on things that I care about deeply, and that I had to appreciate the heck out of. And that, in my strange little brain, is a direct recipe for feeling very, very stressed.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of self-care, especially when friends come to me feeling drained. Somehow, as seems to be the case time and time again, I wasn’t so good at taking that advice myself. The past month since taking the new job has been filled with some steep learning curves, exciting challenges, and wonderful opportunities. But it was also filled with things that I fe like I couldn’t say no to, which left a lot less time for the things that really made me want to say yes.
Today, Presidents’ Day if you live in the United States, was an amazing gift for me. I was thankfully not scheduled to work, and took full advantage of the morning. After some lazy time with coffee, reading an entire book (written for young adults, so not as amazing as it seems), and watching Planet Earth, I decided to take my pup up for a hike to the local dog park. It happens to have an amazing view of the lake and I sat and soaked in the sun glinting off the water.
The moment was nice enough that I wanted to take a picture. Reaching into my pocket, I noticed that I had let my phone battery get down to about one percent. Normally, this would cause me to rush home so I could be sure that I wouldn’t miss anything crucial that might come up. But today, after staying close to my phone for most of the weekend even though I was supposed to be “off the clock,” I decided that my phone could die and the world probably wouldn’t end. After snapping a quick photo of the lake, I slipped my phone into my pocket and forgot about it. Pupper and I went home when we got tired, rather than sticking to some arbitrary time table that I forced on myself.
When I got back to my house, I found that there were a few work messages. But I dealt with them all quickly and felt far less panicked about it all than I probably would have if I had been receiving the updates in real time. Yes, I was lucky that a true emergency hadn’t happened, but overall I think it was a good lesson. I’ve heard so many times about self-care, recharging one’s batteries, and filling the cup so you have more to give, and all of those lovely metaphors. The poet in me is tickled that my “recharging” experience involves a dying phone, though the rational part of my brain is muttering that this is a saccharine, overplayed image.
But the larger point is that I was choosing to feel like I had to keep my work phone on at all times. But the reality is that keeping my phone with me was a choice I was making. And I will be a better, more committed employee if I don’t feel like the rest of my life is suffering to make all that oh so important work stuff happen. I guess it took this gorgeous lake view to really make it real for me. I’m going to try protecting my weekend time much more, building in a specific hour for work and then turning my phone OFF. We’ll see how it goes.
What are your preferred self-care practices? How are you building a work life balance? Tell us in the comments!